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Channel: ASGN '09 Summer
Video: Duane Eddy 1
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DUANE EDDY - In early 1954, in Coolidge, Arizona, Eddy met local disc jockey, Lee Hazlewood, who would become his longtime partner, co-writer and producer. They moved to Phoenix and together created a successful formula based upon Eddy's unique style and approach to the guitar, and Lee's experimental vision with sound in the recording studio, and have been referred to as “one of the greatest hit-making machines of the Rock and Roll era.” His first album, Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, contained six hit singles, and remained on the charts for an astounding 82 weeks. Later in his career, Eddy was interviewed by John Fogerty for Musician magazine about his style. Fogerty called it '"big" both in a sense of it being new and the actual sound quality itself. Eddy told Fogerty, "I knew we had to have something big, we did go for a big sound. I have to give a lot of credit to Lee Hazlewood. He mixed things for AM radio in those days so that they would come rockin out of the radio."

Eddy introduced a unique, twangy sound to rock and roll guitar. As John Fogerty wrote in Rolling Stone about his style, "His sound is one of those untouchable, unique things...Duane Eddy was the front guy...the first real guitar god in rock & roll." Combining strong, dramatic, single-note melodies, the bending of the low strings, and a combination of echo, vibrato bar (Bigsby), and tremolo, he produced a signature sound that was unlike anything that has been heard - the sound that would be featured on an unprecedented string of thirty four chart singles, fifteen of which made the top forty and sales of over 100 million worldwide.

Elements of country, blues, jazz and Gospel infused his instrumentals. They had evocative titles like, "Rebel Rouser", "Forty Miles of Bad Road", "Cannonball", "The Lonely One", "Shazam", and "Some Kind-a Earthquake" (which has the distinction of being the shortest song to ever break into the Top 40, clocking in at 1:17). They were filled with rebel yells and saxophone breaks. The worldwide popularity of these records, beginning with Moovin' and Groovin’ in 1958, broke open the doors for Rock and Roll instrumental music. His band, The Rebels, featured musicians who were to become some of the world's best-known session players. Sax players Steve Douglas and Jim Horn, pianist Larry Knechtel, and guitarist Al Casey, have been heard on hundreds of hit records, becoming members of the famous "Wrecking Crew" of Phil Spector in the 1960s, and touring with a very elite group of artists through the years.

On January 9, 1959, Eddy’s debut album, Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, was released, reaching #5, and remaining on the album charts for an unprecedented 82 weeks. In 1960, the UK's "New Musical Express" voted him World's Number One Musical Personality, ousting Elvis Presley from his long held position. That same year, he appeared in and recorded the theme for the movie Because They're Young. The song became Eddy's biggest success, peaking at #4. "Rebel 'Rouser" peaked at #6, and "Forty Miles Of Bad Road" peaked at #9 in 1958 and 1959, respectively.

Eddy constantly broke new ground, producing over 25 albums spanning a broad range of themes. At the height of the Rock and Roll era, he recorded an album of completely acoustic music, Songs Of Our Heritage, the first "unplugged" project, so to speak. There were orchestral albums, Big Band sounds of the 1940s, and an album of songs written by Bob Dylan, who, years later, would write in his biography, Chronicle, “For sure my lyrics had struck nerves that had never been struck before, but if my songs were just about the words, then what was Duane Eddy, the great rock and roll guitarist, doing recording an album full of instrumental melodies of my songs?”

During the 1960s Eddy launched an acting career, appearing in the films A Thunder of Drums, The Wild Westerners, Kona Coast, The Savage Seven, and two appearances on the television series Have Gun — Will Travel.

The 1970s were equally busy for Eddy. He produced album projects for Phil Everly and Waylon Jennings. In 1975, a collaboration with hit songwriter Tony Macaulay and former founding member of The Seekers, Keith Potger, led to a worldwide top ten record, "Play Me Like You Play Your Guitar". The single, "You Are My Sunshine", featuring Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, hit the country charts in 1977.

In 1983, Duane toured with a group of legendary musicians, playing small, intimate clubs. Friends of Eddy's had put this band together wanting to give the fans a chance to hear him in a unique setting - Don Randi on keyboards, Hal Blaine on drums, Steve Douglas on sax, and Ry Cooder on guitar.

In 1986, Eddy recorded with Art of Noise, a collaboration that brought a contemporary edge to his 1960 best selling version of Henry Mancini's Peter Gunn. The song was a Top Ten hit around the world, ranking #1 on Rolling Stone Magazine's dance chart for six weeks that summer. "Peter Gunn" won The Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental of 1986. It also gave Eddy the distinction of being the only instrumentalist to have had Top 10 hit singles in four different decades in Great Britain.

The following year, a new album, the self-titled, Duane Eddy, was released on Capitol. As a tribute to his influence and inspiration to so many young players, some of the world's best known artists and producers wanted to be a part of this project. Several of the tracks were produced by Paul McCartney, Jeff Lynne, Ry Cooder, and Art of Noise. Guest artists and musicians included John Fogerty, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ry Cooder, James Burton, David Lindley, Steve Cropper, and original Rebels, Larry Knechtel and Jim Horn.

In the spring of 1994, Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside fellow artists Elton John, Rod Stewart, John Lennon, Bob Marley and The Grateful Dead. Later that year, film soundtracks introduced Eddy's music to millions as they watched Forrest Gump being chased by a pickup truck full of rednecks as he runs across a football field to the sound of "Rebel Rouser". Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers used "The Trembler", a track written by Eddy and Ravi Shankar, to help create a spine-chilling scene set against a violent thunderstorm in the desert.

In 1996, Eddy joined Academy Award winning composer Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack of Broken Arrow, starring John Travolta. Eddy’s unique guitar sound was first choice to be the “voice” for the villain’s theme. To quote Mr. Zimmer, "I always thought that Duane's style was being ripped off by the spaghetti westerns. This time I got the real thing." This piece was also used as a recurring theme in Wes Craven's hit film, Scream 2.

In spring, 1997, Eddy was inducted into the Rockwalk, placing his handprints and signature into cement, along with his friends Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, and James Burton.

In 2004 the new Gibson Duane Eddy Signature Model guitar was introduced. It was built to Eddy’s specifications by the Gibson Custom Art and Historic Division. Later that year, he was presented with the Guitar Player Magazine "Legend Award". Eddy was the second recipient of the award, the first having been presented to Eddy's own guitar hero, Les Paul.

Asked by Musician magazine how he felt about influencing generations of musicians, Eddy commented that it "is an unexpected bonus. It makes me feel more important than I otherwise would. It's a confirmation, many years later, that it was the right thing. And we had no way of knowing at the time. We got confirmation in the fact that the records were hits. That's the first big joy. But after it dies down, then suddenly somebody comes along and says, 'You started me in the business.'" Among those who openly acknowledge his influence are George Harrison, Dave Davies (The Kinks), Hank Marvin (The Shadows), The Ventures,[3] John Entwistle (The Who),[3] Bruce Springsteen, Adrian Belew, Bill Nelson (Bebop Deluxe), and Mark Knopfler.

Muriel Anderson's All Star Guitar Night benefits the Music For Life Alliance